N.J. judge bans Web site thats anti-Jews for Jesus

WHIPPANY, N.J. — Attorneys for a New Jersey Web site developer who created an anti-messianic home page might appeal Friday's U.S. District Court ruling that forced him to shut down his site.

The S.F.-based Jews for Jesus — whose site is www.jews-for-jesus.org — sued Steve Brodsky, a West Orange, N.J., resident who had purchased a name for his site, www.jewsforjesus.org. It cited claims relating to trademark infringement.

Brodsky's site provided a link to an anti-missionary organization, Outreach Judaism, and told visitors to go to the site to "learn more about how the Jews for Jesus cult is founded upon deceit and distortion of fact."

In Newark, N.J., U.S. District Judge Alfred J. Lechner Jr. ruled that Brodsky's site makes unfair use of Jews for Jesus' trademark.

In his 82-page decision, Lechner dismissed the argument made by Brodsky's attorneys that since Jews for Jesus actually uses a Star of David in place of the "o" in its trademark symbol, that meant that Brodsky was not technically violating the trademark law.

The judge said that since a computer keyboard cannot generate a Star of David, Jews for Jesus could not exactly reproduce its trademark symbol.

The judge wrote, "The defendant is not only appropriating the name of the plaintiff organization and the [trade]mark, but also is using them to leech off the extensive efforts the plaintiff organization has undertaken during the past 24 years to give currency to its name and to disseminate its teachings."

Brodsky's attorney, Murray Laulicht, a partner in the Florham Park, N.J., law firm of Pitney, Hardin, Kipp & Szuch, said Lechner "pretty much disregarded everything that we had to say. He extended trademark law way beyond the congressional limits, judicial limits, that have been established [and] cut down the First Amendment."

He said the words "Jews for Jesus" are "essentially a generic expression. It's not a trademark use; it's a generic use."

Susan Perlman, associate executive director of Jews for Jesus, said, "We're very encouraged that Judge Lechner has ruled in our favor and we hope that people like Steven Brodsky will be more careful in their fraudulent misuse of the trademarks of other groups in the future."

Lechner said people interested in Jews for Jesus could easily be confused by Brodsky's site.

"There may be some initial confusion. I didn't deny that," said Laulicht, who is also president of the United Jewish Federation of MetroWest, N.J. "But once you get to the site, within about five or 10 seconds you realize that this is a pro-Judaism site . If you don't want to read that message, you just click your back button and you do a search" for the Jews for Jesus site.

Laulicht added that in many cases even the Supreme Court has recognized that "momentary confusion" can be outweighed by the right to free speech.

Lechner, he said, was given "the law, the facts. He preferred to rely on newspaper articles to prove what was said. It's pure hearsay."

Although Brodsky has taken down his Web site, Laulicht said, "I believe that there will be another location." He added that Brodsky and his attorneys are "discussing an appeal.

"Obviously I look at this as important to the Jewish community and trying to build a Jewish life and I regard this organization as one that's cruelly going out to destroy Jewish life."

Brodsky said he has been advised by his attorneys not to comment on the case.